SVJI’s Rural Technical Assistance Project brings people, knowledge, and resources together to develop real solutions for rural communities addressing sexual violence. The collaborative approach we take means tools, trainings, and conferences designed for rural spaces and tailored assistance to meet your community’s specific needs. 

Our Rural Realities blog is a space to reflect, connect, and share about the work of coordinated sexual assault responses with others doing similar work across the United States. Please contact Johnanna Ganz ( with any rural related needs or questions.

Please share your thoughts and responses to blog posts via the comment function. Any comments that are deemed inappropriate (e.g. derogatory or inflammatory) will be deleted. 

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  • June 21, 2017 8:06 AM | Anonymous

    As we are discussing growth mindset and making changes in our approaches, Praxis International is an excellent resource for rural grantees! Praxis helps those doing work in the field to rethink strategies and find new ways of approaching our responses to violence that create sustainable change. They host the Advocacy Learning Center dedicated to advancing practices and incorporating new directions in providing advocacy services. They also offer a variety of resources, toolkits, and materials for expanding our efforts to reform institutions on behalf of all victims and survivors in our communities through the use of Institutional Analysis.

    Have other resources? Share them in the comments!

  • June 14, 2017 8:11 AM | Anonymous

    The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is capable of magical things, when SARTners are all working together to coordinate better responses. I was recently out in West Virginia at their Annual Symposium. While there, I heard questions from SART members that I hear often from all over the country; questions that I struggled with as a team leader: what do I do when other team members believe that showing up to a monthly meeting is the primary purpose?

    It’s a good question. It’s a hard question. It is also a really important question that gets to the heart of the purpose of the SART. This is where weaving the core principle of mutual growth and improvement of all SARTners is essential.

    There are some ways to accomplish this task when you are working to build or working to re-engage team members. Here are some ideas:

    • Incorporate growth and change into your communications. One of the best pieces of advice I got as a new coordinator from an amazing and seasoned team leader was: use the pre and post meeting emails to (1) thank people for their engagement and (2) remind them why they are showing up. Every email I sent to my team after that focused on how I could see them working through complex issues. I would note the changes we were making together. It became the heart of all my communication; team members felt more invested in the team and attendance improved vastly. They began to see they were doing something, not just meeting for the sake of meeting.
    • Write it into your Memorandums of Understanding. Most teams have some sort of written documents that indicates their commitment to the team. MOU’s are a great place to indicate that your goal as a team is to shake up that status quo and make necessary changes to relationships, practices, and processes. You can show you mean to do hard and good work in that agreement. It will help to frame the work of the SART for all players involved.
    • Talk about mutual growth and improvement. SARTs need to look closely at every agency’s policies and practices to find places where they can make realistic and sustainable improvements. Most of the time, it’s easier to point fingers than it is to do the hard work together. Reminding people that you are all in it together can help ease that stress. It bonds you rather than divides you. Whenever you have the opportunity, remind folks of the greater mission of the team.
    • Acknowledge the difficulty; continue to celebrate. There is such value in speaking the truth. You all know it’s hard to change agency practices and policies and historically challenging relationships or problems. However, don’t get stuck admiring the problems. Continue to encourage growth in the work. Celebrate the small victories—in our lines of work, we don’t have many opportunities to celebrate. Addressing realities and celebrating wins can make the work seem more do-able to team members.

    These are just some of the ways that you can begin to build up a framework of growth and improvement to help focus and encourage your team. I’m certain that many of you also have ideas on how to center your team on doing complex work to change the response of systems practitioners. Please share your ideas—big and small—in the comments! 

  • June 07, 2017 9:02 AM | Anonymous

    There’s been so much written on the ways in which failure can be a positive—sometimes, it seems like delusion and other times, it is comforting. I don’t always feel that positive vibe, and failure has felt ugly and disheartening. However, there’s this researcher, Carol Dweck, who researches how we understand failure and skill building. She has a 10 minute Ted Talk about what happens when we start from the premise of “not yet.” While the video is aimed at talking about school-based learning, we can use the concepts in every part of our work as Sexual Assault Response Team members and leaders. I remember watching this video and thinking, “Wow! That changes how I see what’s happening on my team. We aren’t failing at anything, we just haven’t gotten there, yet.” It made me a more resilient and patient team leader.

    So, give the video a watch and weigh in with your thoughts about how this concept helps, hinders, or changes your work on SARTs! 

  • June 01, 2017 9:23 AM | Anonymous

    Greetings SART friends! I hope you are all doing well. With the National Institute at the beginning of this month, I'm a little behind on blog writing--my apologies. 

    Fear not! The blog is back next week. Until then, keep doing awesome work to improve the lives of victim/survivors in your communities. 


  • May 18, 2017 9:19 AM | Anonymous
    Over the last several years, SVJI has worked to learn best practices and find better ways to complete case file reviews as a strategy for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART). After many rounds of testing and revision, we are proud to make the official Case File Review Toolkit available! The process is broken down into 9 modules. Designed to be easy to use and understand, each module is only a few pages in length with clear guidance on steps you and your team will need to take. Additionally, you can find more resources and tools embedded throughout the entire toolkit. 

    You can find it here or by going to 

    If you have questions, feedback to improve the toolkit, or need training/technical assistance with your team around Case File Review, please reach out to SVJI staff. We are happy to help! 

    If you have other great resources regarding the process of case file review, leave them in the comments! 

  • May 04, 2017 8:03 AM | Anonymous

    Image result for tell me what you want meme

    Normally, we'd start the month off with a theme. This month I wanted to do things a little differently with the help of our friends, The Spice Girls!

    As coordinated groups of systems providers and the folks who are dedicated to changing how professionals respond to sexual violence victim/survivors, what are some Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) topics or issues that you would like addressed in upcoming blogs? 

    This blog is a dedicated space and resource for SARTs; I want to be sure that the content meets the realities of your work. So, leave your teaming topic ideas in the comments! 

  • April 28, 2017 8:19 AM | Anonymous

    You’re probably looking at that title and thinking, “Whoa, Ganz. What’s this full spectrum concept?” Or you might be thinking of a line that looks like this:


    Think of the spectrum of sexual violence as overlapping bubbles. Because sexual violence takes a lot of shapes and forms. It looks different in every context. Here’s an idea of what that might look like:

    There are overlaps in each and some violence is distinct from others. Think of visual as all that can be seen; for instance: pornography, image exploitation (revenge porn), flashing. Verbal is sexual violence through communication; examples might be street harassment/cat calling, sexting, name calling, or crude/demeaning jokes. Physical is anything that includes touching of physical bodies, by any other object or person. There can be overlap among only two or all three areas. Sexual violence is a more all-encompassing term and the spectrum really gets to the heart of rape culture.  Helping your team to understand the whole range of behaviors that affect victim/survivors can assist in addressing sexual violence holistically in the community.

    It’s easy for folks to focus in on one type of sexual violence over any other. Some communities prioritize sexual violence against children, some focus on assaults by strangers, some focus on other types. However, in your Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), I want to encourage you to get your team thinking broadly about how to handle the many types and contexts of sexual violence that happens in your community. This is easier said than done, but it is a necessary shift if we want to reach the most marginalized victim/survivors in our communities.

    If you have thoughts, questions, or comments on this blog, leave them in the comments! 

  • April 19, 2017 8:34 AM | Anonymous

    When talking about focusing on sexual violence and working together as a team to address sexual violence, the Resource Sharing Project has some great guides for advocacy agencies, especially those providing dual or multi-services in their programs. They are a rural grantee TA provider and can assist with a range of issues facing programs and communities, especially for those working to strengthen sexual violence support services.

    Do you have any useful tools and resources focusing on and strengthening sexual assault services in your area? Let us know in the comments! 

  • April 12, 2017 3:10 PM | Anonymous

    Growing up, my friends and I didn’t know a whole lot about sexual and domestic violence. Even though violence happened, no one really talked about it openly. If people did talk, it was about the city or movies or video games. For my friends and me, when we heard about sexual violence, it was a case of overhearing adults talking about those things as events that happened in other places—not in our rural community. When I first started working in victim advocacy, one of the hardest things I had to learn was that sexual violence happened in my community and that I personally knew the people that were victim/survivors and the perpetrators. It’s hard; it’s one of the harder parts of being in a small community doing this work.

    Through my work as a national technical assistance provider, I have found that all over the country, communities have similar conversations as ours did. People are often afraid, unwilling, or unsure of how to address the fact that sexual violence happens in their communities, their places of worship, their workplaces, or in their family/friend networks. SART leaders talk to me before trainings and ask how I can help get folks to see the realities of what’s happening around them. There are no easy answers or quick fixes—I wish there were. However, here are some ideas about how to approach the conversation with folks in the community.

    • Define “sexual violence” in accessible ways. Often times, folks have a belief that sexual violence is strangers jumping out of alleys and bushes. Talk about the range of behaviors that are sexually violent and make sure they get what you mean.
    • Normalize the conversation. Work with rural leader, other non-profits, faith communities, etc. to say that it does happen here and what that might look like in your community. Help to break the silence and stigma; help others make space for people to come forward and get help.
    • Personalize sexual violence. I’m not saying make it about someone’s victimization or share confidential information about other victim/survivors. Rather, help people understand sexual violence victim/survivors (and perpetrators) as people that you know, love, and/or see frequently.
    • ·Use logic and numbers. Give the stats around sexual violence in communities. Talk about some of the unique elements of reporting in a rural community that may change how that number looks in your community. If 1 in 4 women and 1 in 33 men and 1 in 2 trans-identified folks experience sexual violence, math says that it’s happening in your community.
    • Give people time to change their perceptions. Learning about and talking about sexual violence is hard. You know this. I know this. People usually need time to make sense of hard information.
    • Show compassion, even if you think they are wrong. Honestly? This is still a struggle for me. Yet, I find that if I approach people (leaders, teams, communities) with compassion and acknowledge the struggle they must experience when faced with the scope of violence, we both walk away from the conversation with doors open. When I get frustrated or condescending or disengage negatively, people don’t come back to the conversation when they most need to. Show compassion, speak the truth, and set the stage for other people to authentically engage.
    How about you folks? How have you gotten community and team members on-board with recognizing that sexual violence happens here? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments!

  • April 05, 2017 10:32 AM | Anonymous

    Image result for SAAM ribbonIt’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! This is the month where a lot of folks engage in outreach and education events. Most of these are aimed at the public. However, those who do work in and around sexual assault/violence can also use this month as a platform to do activism, education, outreach, and systems change. SAAM isn’t just for advocacy groups. Your Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) can use SAAM as a time to do more good work!

    So, SART friends, weigh in: how does or how can you engage your SART in SAAM events? What things have you accomplished or projects you’ve begun using the energy and momentum of SAAM? Add your ideas, examples, and questions to the comments! 

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This project is supported by Grant Number 2015-TA-AX-K014 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this content are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women. 

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